From WILL - News Headlines -

Champaign, Fire Union Negotiating to Keep Engine Operating Fulltime

A plan to cut service at the Champaign Fire Department has stalled as city officials and the local fire union try to reach an agreement to save the city nearly $420,000 in overtime costs.

The city had set a Jan. 1 deadline to reduce operations for Engine Co. 154 located on West John Street, but recent budget negotiations pushed that date to Jan. 15.

Champaign Firefighters Local 1260 President Chris Zaremba said union members are willing to make concessions to ensure that the truck is available whenever there is an emergency.

"The union is looking at doing approximately $350,000 of that, and the city would essentially match what we're doing to come up with the rest," Zaremba said. "I believe the (union) supports us making some sort of offer to try to keep that company open."

Champaign Fire Chief Doug Forsman said he is cautiously optimistic that an agreement will be reached. However, if there is not a compromise, then service to staff the fire engine would be cut by 75 percent.

While Forsman said Engine Co. 154 is the least busy out of all of the city's fire companies, he acknowledges that reducing service would have an impact on emergency response. If service is reduced for Engine Co. 154, one of the city's adjacent fire stations would have to respond.

"That causes a little bit of a time delay, and causes an area to be uncovered that would normally remain covered during that incident," Forsman said.

A call seeking comment from the city was not immediately returned.

Meanwhile, plans are still in place to stop overnight operations at the front desk of the Champaign Police Department from 7pm until 7am.

Reducing staffing overnight is expected to save the city approximately $140,000. Deputy Chief Troy Daniels said the change will take affect by the middle of January.

"The lobby is not used a lot during those times anyway." Daniels said. "Certainly, we want to keep someone at the front desk at often as possible. Right now, we're being told the cuts should come and that we should implement the cuts, but certainly the council or the city manager's office could tell us otherwise at any time."

Daniels said the department is preparing for the change by modifying the way the public can get a hold of law enforcement when the front desk is closed. Unlike the negotiations going on between the city and the fire union, he noted nothing like that is taking place to prevent the front desk from closing.